Part Two of the New Year’s Holiday report.
You want quiet? Come walk around a large Chinese city on New Year’s Eve. Or New Year’s Day. I’ve been in louder libraries. I live in a town of about 10 million, and this is what my street looked like New Year’s Eve at about 8 o’clock (a Friday night):
I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of what this street normally looks like, but suffice it to say that it is quite dangerous to cross (I’m getting better at it, though), and there are a lot of restaurants, convenience stores, jade shops, clothing stores, and, of course, the hooker bars. This is what it looked like on New Year’s Day:
One of the busiest streets in Suzhou, usually full of locals and visitors, is Guan Qian Jie, with high end stores, very famous and very old Chinese restaurants and candy stores, coffee shops, a Taoist temple, a Pizza Hut, two McDonalds, and all sorts of other things. It looked like this on New Year’s Day, the middle of a Saturday afternoon:
Ping Jiang Lu, also always so chock full o’people—tourists and locals—that one can hardly walk or avoid being run over by a motor scooter, looked like this:
One thing one gets used to in China—if one plans to survive—is people everywhere, all the time, and a lot of them. The first complete Chinese sentence I think I learned was the standard complaint “中国有太多人”/”China has too many people.” So seeing Suzhou, or Guiyang, as a ghost town is not just a little unnerving; it can be a little creepy.
Pretty much people hang out with their family, eat, maybe drink, and many watch the New Year Show that is all over the TV and various other media platforms. Which is kind of cool. So I did my part to participate.
This quiet, of course, was not helped by the Coronavirus issue emerging from Wuhan. But, to be honest, I don’t think it would have been any different without the health emergency; there was no Coronavirus last year in Guilin, and I would not have been surprised to see a couple of tumbleweeds roll through on New Year’s Eve.
The outbreak of the virus has, of course, put a damper on a lot of things. It is not unusual to see people wearing masks, but most do not. Yesterday walking around, I would say that 60-70% of the people I saw were wearing them; today was closer to 80%.
A lot of public gatherings, including in Beijing, were cancelled; people generally followed instructions (wear a mask, wash your hands a lot, use sanitizer, avoid live animals [human and non-human?] and live animal [human and non-human?] markets, be careful about what you eat.
Wuhan, a town of 11 million, was completely shut down; the closest analogy I can think of is closing down Los Angeles—nobody in, nobody out, including LAX—on the afternoon of December 24th. Some people are suspicious of the government reports on the Coronavirus, given some of the things that happened in the past (e.g. SARS). From my angle officials seem to be doing a pretty good job of keeping people informed about what to do and what not to do, and they have extended the range of the general shutdown to include some 56 million people. But people travel, and Wuhan and its environs has a lot of folks, so it remains to be seen what the contagion vector is here. Yes, I just said “contagion vector.” It also makes me wonder what the moron in the White House (I realize this is unfair to other morons) would do with this kind of emergency: or any kind of emergency, for that matter.
In any case, things will be calm for awhile. Then school starts, I head to Taiwan for a week, and come back to warmer weather. I will close with a thank you to my lovely and wise Chinese tutor Emily, who gave me this electric blanket. I told her she revolutionized my world; she said I exaggerated. I’m not sure I did; down here in the southern part of China (江南/Jiangnan) people act like it never gets all that cold. So the apartments aren’t all that equipped for cold. I think it is cold. Not Chicago cold, not Murmansk cold, but pretty damn cold. Emily saved me, and I’m getting a lot of reading done since I can do that in the warmest place in my flat.
And a quick thank you to the family for my Christmas delivery; a sweatshirt from a fine university (part of trying to stay warm) and some candy, the life expectancy of which was disturbingly short. Not too sure about the flip-flops, but one can never have enough.
Oh, OK. A couple of food pictures, as is now de rigueur:
Ahem, flip flops with a message. Did you even look at the bottoms?
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Of course I worry!
Julie Raffkind 6527 Westgate Dr. Dallas, Texas. 75254
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You will love Taiwan! Still one of my favorite places on Earth.
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